Factory-Built Natural Gas
Natural gas school busses are available factory-direct from two school bus manufacturers - Thomas Built with its Saf-T Liner HDX model and Blue Bird with its All American RE model. Both products incorporate the dedicated ISL G natural gas engine from Canadian company Cummins Westport. The ISL G is an 8.9 litre that does not require a diesel particulate filter or selective catalytic reduction to comply with 2010 emission standards. This engine is also quieter with up to 10 decibels less noise at idle compared with a diesel engine. Use of natural gas in a school bus application provides a carbon reduction benefit of 18% on a lifecycle basis according to Natural Resources Canada’s GHGenius model. School buses can also operate on renewable biomethane produced from waste biomass which results in an 85-90% reduction in lifecycle carbon emissions.
There are about 75 natural gas school buses currently in use in Canada. Most of these buses are older aftermarket conversions of gasoline engines to bi-fuel natural gas/gasoline operation. These vehicles are in use in Ontario, Québec, and Saskatchewan. In 2009, Central Okanagan School District No. 23 took delivery of Canada’s first factory-built natural gas school bus. The Blue Bird All American RE was put into service for the 2009-2010 school year and, based on positive performance results, a second natural gas bus was ordered by the School District to operate as part of its fleet of 74 school buses.
A number of school bus fleets across the United States use natural gas for as a way to reduce fuel costs, lower emissions, and incorporate a domestic fuel in their operations. NGVAmerica, the national trade association that advocates for natural gas vehicles in the United States, works with school bus fleet owners to encourage the adoption of natural gas buses. The largest fleet of natural gas school buses is in the Los Angeles Unified School District. During the 2009-2010 school year, 142 natural gas school buses were in use. The purchase of an additional 260 natural gas buses in 2010 will mean that nearly one-quarter of the school district’s 1,300 bus fleet will operate on natural gas for the 2010-2011 school year.
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